Sunday, April 03, 2005

I Knew A Man: Bob's Bob

I always felt I knew him before I met him, heard his voice in Bob's easy voicing of his poems. Bob talking about a certain Japanese form that shapes the substance of the material, like reforming a shell to sound into another chamber. Bob talking about the way a poem can play along the various ways a poem can mean. In this case, the form of the moment of the laugh. Bob's translation: "Spit up./ Look up./ Get wet." The moment of the laugh is the moment of the poem enacting. That moment is married (Bob's word, & now there is no other way to say this) in mind with the other Bob's poem, "I Know A Man."

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, -- John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

~Robert Creeley

I hear this in Bob's voice, which I'm sure was Creeley's voice in the way my own is an amalgam of those I love. Of all the many anecdotes Bob told about Creeley & their poets friendship, the only trace of that island is Bob's Japanese poem & Creeley's lines. Look at them. How goddamn full they are in defiance of their Twiggy nature. Bob was later to claim that the "secret of (his) success" was that he always had, at least, "two & a half poetic ideas per line." I remember Bob lingering over the other Bob's lean lines, savoring the "rasa" within. Something delicious and ineffable.

I am sure I will check on my book shelves in the office and mourn the passing of Creeley's books. I always give my favorites to students to read, not trusting they find what they need to read therein at the local bookstore. Some words just seem to need to be, and to be read by a certain someone at a certain time. Or, at least, this is as agreeable a plot as any. I used to own them all. Most bought used. The last, the book of photos, bought new & with his signature. Creeley's books were always important to me. The early work especially. Words. Pieces. The bits of love. This poem, my favorite, always there, whispering into my grey mater, but it came to life, a lick of flame under Bob's breath. This is why this first 'showing' of my new books, the hard-bound first edition of all 5 books is called "DRIVE: The First Quartet." My life, this poet's life, blessed by breath, has been a constant looking "out where yr going." I have always known this, since I first read that line at the gate of my gangly adolescence, when I spent my nights daring my death.

Another Bob, Bobbie Louise, would bring Bob often to Boulder. I like Bobbie so much, I would always imagine them young and together in wit & wine, it's a always a lovely love from this distance of time & circumstance. I brought the writer, Daryl Begay, as my "SMART" student, to his reading at the Boulder Theater one summer. He thrilled me with a reading of the old work. "Listen," I was able to tell Daryl, and I counted out the trochees, dactyl & spondees like a conductor, "Listen to that music." All the contrapuntals. "That's jazz." I say. "hear how he riffs off himself." He honors his own music in the reading. I am so proud at my scansion, something I am normally not overtly interested in, but I finger the words in the air like the fine bead weavings that they are: such a casual masterpiece.

The first time I ever assert myself in the meeting, it is at the awards banquet for the Lila Wallace ('96?) I go up to him at his table and take the hand he offers standing up, curious to be under that eye & direct gaze. I tell him that I am a poet, and a former student of Bob's... he interrupts me: "I know who you are. I like your poetry." It is not the first time we have met, but it the first time I dared to talk to him directly. I know he knows how much pleasure he gives me with those words. It's in the eyes, and the hands. I go back to my table.

The next time is also in NY, at the Online Poetry Classroom workshop. I am there as one of the poets for Colorado along with Aaron Abeyta. It's the first time I fall ill with this stomach thing. I end up having to spend all night in emergency in some NYC ER. They lock me in a room with bullet-proof glass for my own "protection." I share the room with a 93 year old former English teacher to kids in the Bronx who has broken her hip falling down & is without family or friends. We talk teaching through her moans & my dog-retching. She will die penniless, she sys, but would do it again. I miss Eleni's talk, as I am hospitalized, but manage to (miraculously!) stave the dry-heaves & nausea during Bob's talk. He sympathizes with my illness, and smiles at me often while he talks—at least I fancy he did, there was that thing with his eye, don't you know.

There are four types of men with 4 modes of operating: They ignore you. They sexualize you. They infantilize you. They treat you like a human being. Most men, and poets by extension, dwell densely in the former three categories, like clusters of flotsam. Of the 3, I prefer the former. Bob Creeley, like Bob Hass, was of the latter.

"If you have friends/ make sure yr/ good to them." ~lines from one of RCs poems heard from reading he did at the Kelly Writers House so ignore the linneation.

Here's some notes from Creeley's talk to teachers that July 17, 2001.

Poetry is "not what you'd like to have happen..., but what happens."

And what I found most remarkable about his talk, his discussion of the various levels one keeps aloft (my word) in the poem, that contrapuntal logic, not just music, in the poem, the fugue of it's happening:

There is an "upper limit," the "music" of the poem and a "lower limit," the "speech" of the poem. This from Zukofsky. His advice: "Listen to the sound that it makes."

Not rely upon the nouns. "Things change by use and condition." In the same way there is a upper & lower limit, there is a "playful and intense" range within the poem, simultaneous & interrelational.

It is the poets task (talent?) to "whet that particular pleasure, interest." "You don't have to get the history (in a poem), just the feeling inherent." In order "to give it a particularity."

He cited Wesling's (?) The New Poetries. I was struck by his talking at length about this "particularity" the poem hones, the "particularity of the poet versus the singularity of science." The poem presents a single case and this "single case is not useful to science." The masterpiece of the poem with its Derrida stammer of awe at the end, the single masterpiece with its gong of knowing resonating for a lifetime in the end. I make a note in the margin about the "masterpiece" as this "poet's particularity," Heidegger's "dwelling" in a word.

(Style?) as a matter of "to be in or out of its reading."
And, "The world will appear/ as it always was." (RC)

"I used to think of age/ as a lessening." (RC) Now I hear that line as "a lessoning." Robert Creeley's life and work was a lessoning. He was not a teacher as much as he was, as so many good poets are, a living lesson. Lived in the way he broke the line.

"so now it's for me." ~Robert Creeley, d. 3/30/05.

Thank you, Bob, for breathing into Bob.

"Home might be still
the happiest place on earth." ~RC


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